Becoming Multi-Ethnic

I grew up in a sleepy suburban town, nestled along the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California.  The city of Arcadia began as a community of chicken ranches and fruit orchards.  But as Los Angeles grew, people began moving away from the urban center to places like Arcadia.  Increased property values incentivized local ranchers and farmers to sell to housing developers.  Arcadia transformed into a city of small shops and suburban neighborhoods.   Socio-economically and ethnically monogamous, the schools I attended, city leadership, police force and business sectors all served a largely middle class, religious and 95% white population.  My family fit that demographic.  We were “Creasters” -Christmas and Easter churchgoers.  The church we attended was similar to the way BelPres is now; multiple staff, multiple programs, 2,500+ member church.

That was the Arcadia I grew up in.  But by my Senior Year in High School, my city began to transform again.   Families, who had the financial means to do so, were buying homes, tearing them down and building larger, 6000 square foot homes.  These families fit the financial profile of the average Arcadian but were ethnically different.  The new Arcadians spoke a different language, raised their children differently, and were not interested in giving up their culture or ethnic heritage in order to become like the majority demographic who already lived there.   Businesses, restaurants, financial institutions and schools adapted and made changes in order to serve the new non-white demographic.  But my Creaster church didn’t.  It remained focused on the 95%.  That was 40 years ago.

Today, Arcadia is a different city than the one I grew up in.  It is bigger, multi-ethnic, and vibrant.  The church of my childhood is different too; down to 200 members and a few staff.  The church never figured out how to engage its community and be a church for all people, all nations, all ethnic groups.

We, at BelPres, are partnering with Jesus to revive the Eastside and beyond.  We believe that revival will look like lots of things; i.e. not old-time tent meetings and altar calls, but healed relationships, breaking down the forces which create and sustain poverty, schools thriving, people experiencing Jesus love and making decisions to love Him back, etc.  We all have a part in that wherever we live, work, learn and play.  But our context is changing.  The number of languages spoken on the Eastside is approaching 100!

There are lots of reasons why we want to become a multi-ethnic church; 3 reasons specifically.  First, Jesus calls us to make disciples of all nations, all people, all ethnic groups; (Matthew 28:18-21, Mark 15:15-16; Luke 24:46-49, John 20:21-23; Acts 1:8).    Second, the first church at Antioch was multi-ethnic and reflected the fact that God’s Kingdom is multi-ethnic too.  Third, our worship and the quality of our life together is fuller, richer, better as a multi-ethnic community than it is when we are not.  It is just more fun, more meaningful, more vibrant and life-giving.  We don’t know what we are missing until we are with people who are ethnically different than us.  We need them.  We can’t experience the fullness of community and worship without them.

So what can you do?  If you heard the sermon by Sergio Chavez earlier this year, you can PUFYTB- Put your feet under the table.   Share a meal.  Invite someone to coffee, or lunch or to your home who is ethnically different than you.  Pray for them.  Begin reading about or learning about the culture of one of the 100 language groups on the Eastside.  What can they teach you?  Do you have other ideas or a story to tell?  Share it.

 

If you have a story you would like to share with us, please email it to missionstories@belpres.org

 

REVIEW OF JOSEPH CASTLEBERRY’S “THE NEW PILGRIMS”

Immigration is at the center of our national debate.  While almost all would agree that the current system isn’t working, people of faith have varying opinions on what our country’s immigration laws should be.  Debates on immigration often focus on economics, national security, or our responsibility to the vulnerable.  Castleberry has a very different perspective – evangelism.  He quotes a friend’s saying of immigrants, “They either came here to evangelize or to be evangelized.”  This book challenged me to consider how God is at work in the movement of people around the world, especially to the United States.

In the first half of the book, Castleberry lays out the decline of faith and moral values in the US and argues the decline has been held at bay and is reversing due to immigrants.  Unlike the US, Christianity is expanding rapidly around the world, especially in Africa, South America, and China.  Our missionary efforts in the past are bearing fruit. Those who have found Jesus around the world are looking at the US as a fertile mission field.  Christian immigrants are coming to the US, revitalizing existing congregations and planting new churches.  On the flipside, Castleberry argues that non-Christian immigrants (whose family and close friends are far away) feel a great need for a relationship that “leaves them [seeking] renewal or conversion.”  This is an opportunity for Christians to “good-news” those God has brought to our communities.

In the second half of the book, Castleberry addresses our legal and political system.  He sets out an evangelical case for comprehensive immigration reform that includes compromise from both political parties.  He urges the reader to seek “the Lamb’s Agenda” rather than the Elephant’s or the Donkey’s.  I found much to agree with in this book, but also much to challenge me.  I think readers from all parts of the political spectrum will agree.  Mostly, Castleberry made me think and inspired me with new ideas.

The Justice & Reconciliation Team invites you to read this book and join us for a lively discussion at our next Justice & Reconciliation Book club on Monday, 2/5, at 7pm in S-223.

Power in the Name of Jesus

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” Matthew 1:21

‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, There is something about that name.

As I write, my heart is somewhat sad because it is difficult to understand why so many people hate the name, Jesus. This came out of a letter I received from a friend.  A letter in which he stated that he was preparing to speak at a very large convention sharing his testimony and in that context, the impact made on his life after a visit to our Campus in Guatemala.

As I read his letter, he mentioned my name and the school but did not mention the Mission, ‘The Arms of Jesus Children’s Mission.’ I sent him a note saying I would be praying for him and his witness.  Then I received a response that saddened my heart. He said, “Thanks…it is very frustrating. They censored it to the point where I couldn’t even mention ‘The Arms of Jesus Children’s Mission’ because it has ‘Jesus’ in the name. I was (hot) under the collar.”

Can you understand that? In today’s political correctness, you cannot mention the name ‘Jesus.’ My mind went back a few years when a dear friend and member of the Government of Canada helped us get funding for a project in Haiti. He came up against this same issue and heard Government Officials say, “Get them to change their name.” In simple terms, “Have them remove the name ‘Jesus.’”

We are not ashamed of the name of Jesus and will never ever change our name just to get funding. God Himself and His people will provide the resources we need to fulfill His mandate! Let me share a few scriptures with you:

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philip 2:9-11

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesusname and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” Acts 3:16

“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”  John 16:23-24

Yes, there is something about that name and the song writer put it so well:

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there’s just something about that name.

Master, Savior, Jesus, like the fragrance after the rain

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all heaven and earth proclaim

Kings and kingdoms will pass away

But there’s something about that Name!

 

 

Children Pray for Daily Bread

Hunger stalks many families on the Eastside – an alarming statement to be sure, but all too true. In Bellevue alone, more than 200 students are known to be homeless; these children have no pantry or refrigerator to open in search of a snack. In the Bellevue School District, over 4,000 students qualify for free or reduced-price meals served at school. For some, the breakfast and lunch they get at school will be the only food they eat all day. For these students and their families, having enough to eat is always in question. Their prayers “for daily bread” are quite literal.

The hunger pangs are there, hidden below the surface appearance of many low-income people for whom shelter, safety, and sufficient food can never be taken for granted. Parents struggle to sustain their families and provide the basic necessities of life, often working two or more minimum wage jobs, just to pay rent and keep the lights on. Weekends can be especially difficult because the children lack access to meals provided at school on Saturdays and Sundays.

Since 1998, Renewal Food Bank (RFB) has been filling the gap for many Eastside families. An independent, non-profit agency and a member of Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline hunger relief network, RFB serves 250 families every week. Over the years, RFB has provided food security for over 350,000 people.

With a very modest operating budget (less than $100,000 a year), RFB continues to serve 250 families each week, or 13,000 family visits annually. This is possible because of the generosity of community members and faith-based organizations donating food and household sundries consistently. It literally takes a community of caring volunteers, businesses, churches and service organizations to keep the food bank going. Every donation is welcomed and sincerely appreciated.

RFB Executive Director, Rich Bowen says, “Here at Renewal Food Bank, our desire is to strengthen our community by meeting the needs of the most vulnerable people in East King County. We partner with City of Bellevue and other local social services, businesses, schools, churches, and individuals who have the heart to feed the hungry in our community. We need your help!”

Here are some ways you can partner with Renewal Food Bank:

• Tell those in need about us and help them get the groceries they need!
• Volunteer at Renewal Food Bank — one time, bi-monthly, every week
• Support RFB at work through your company’s United Way campaign (once our IRS filing for 501(c)3 status is approved)
• Organize a neighborhood food drive — they can help you get started
• Set up a food donation bin at your school, church, or place of business
• Bring your family or child’s scout troop to Renewal Food Bank to volunteer
• Head up a food drive at your child’s school
• Bring weekly food collections from local business partners to the food bank
• Deliver food to housebound individuals
• Help pay the monthly bills with a monetary donation to Renewal Food Bank
Together we can build a strong community and care for the most vulnerable members of our Eastside community.

Meal Packing

What does this mean for our family? It used to mean working hard with other BelPres families on Saturday morning packing bulk foods. We enjoyed the energy, the fellowship, the constant smiles among co-workers and the sense of accomplishment when we bagged the raw materials.

This year, it is infinitely more meaningful because we’ve learned where the food goes. We knew the meals were going to people who really needed them. We tried to find the tiny village online. It took three of us confirming the spelling and checking each other’s data to locate Mokpangumba. We learned many villages are similarly named and that there are many waterways on the western side of Sierra Leone. We have pictures of the children in the village and wondered why some wear school uniforms and others don’t. We’ve mispronounced and repronounced and laughed over our English tongues not able to stand up to the Mokpangumba syllables. All of this makes us feel closer to the village we help.

Can you believe the food our gloved hands process makes its way around the world?  Yes, around-the-world to a village of 300 families in Sierra Leone. The journey will not be easy. It will take plenty of logistics with planes, trucks, boats and more human hands distributing it in Mokpangumba.

What the families harvest from the fields and rivers nearby is not enough, so the food we packed will provide additional nutrition. This food means survival for the children. It may mean they can concentrate better at school and learn what will help them change the way their food is grown or how their village works.

We’ve had conversations around this very fact: It is a long way from how we live. As we prepare for this year’s meal packing, we are curious about what the children will think of the food, what they do in school and what they do for fun. It has become personal and so much more important to pack this food for them.

Please come and join our dedicated community of meal-packing marathoners on Saturday, January 27!  To find out more or sign up, click here: belpres.org/events/meal-packing-2018

 

Learn more about Children of the Nation’s work in Mokpangumba or watch this video from COTN.